At two o’clock they were still at a table opposite each other. The large room was emptying; the stove-pipe, in the shape of a palm-tree, spread its gilt leaves over the white ceiling, and near them, outside the window, in the bright sunshine, a little fountain gurgled in a white basin, where; in the midst of watercress and asparagus, three torpid lobsters stretched across to some quails that lay heaped up in a pile on their sides.
I love this passage. There scenery is so vivid, the colors are striking and the shapes so opulent (those fancy lobsters!). This scene is so clear to me I just want to live in it.
Actually I wrote a “review” of the book quasi-recently on Goodreads (though haven’t been active lately on that site…) Here it is, a sort-of response to some of the other Goodreads reviews, copied and pasted:
status: Read in October, 2009
review: To say one dislikes or likes a character in this novel I think is to misread it. The characters blend into the scene, and the story is of occurrences rather than drama. This is part of the reason Flaubert is heralded as sort of patriarchal figure of modern lit; he wrote anti-drama. Flaubert was more interested in the wallpaper at the Lion d’Or than Emma and Léon’s weekly Thursday “business”, and he’s blasé straight until the end describing the dismal life of Berthe in the wake of tragedy that itself is written as if it “just happens”. I would accuse Flaubert of unabated indifference if they weren’t _his_ characters in _his_ story. Once readers accept the novel for what it is (or what it is not, rather), Madame Bovary is truly beautiful. The image of watercress and asparagus in the bowl of a fountain wherein little lobsters scuttle about is burned in my memory. There’s beauty in the precision of Flaubert’s words… the novel is in the minutia of the landscape, the banal details that, while riding on the cab or walking through the courtyard, you would see, hear, and feel if you were there. The landscape is alive and Emma, Charles,and all the others are part of that landscape. It’s impossible to dislike Emma or like Charles, dislike Homais or like Justin; you either appreciate Yonville or you don’t.